When we talk about the year’s biggest box office surprises, Girls Trip can officially be mentioned in the same breath as films like Get Out and Wonder Woman. The raunch-com about a group of BFF’s navigating their way through a wild night gone horrible wrong officially crossed the vaunted $100 million mark at the domestic box office.
This is notable for a few reasons. First off, it’s been a minute since an R-rated comedy has performed well with audiences. This summer alone saw the Will Ferrell and Amy Poehler vehicle The House and the Dwayne Johnson-led Baywatch stumble at the box office. Those are three major movie stars whose names are usually catnip for movie goers. Conversely, the biggest star in Girls Trip is Queen Latifah, who despite being a household name, is not a big enough draw to sell a movie on her name alone.
That brings us to Rough Night, another all-female R-rated comedy about a debaucherous night that goes off the rails. But while Girls Trip earned a whopping $31.2 million on opening weekend, Rough Night disappointed with just $8 million, despite the fact that it starred Scarlett Johansson and a who’s who of comedy’s most exciting female talents.
So why did Girls Trip succeed where Rough Night couldn’t? Well, if the critics are to be believed, Girls Trip was just better. It scored a sparkling 89 percent on the increasingly important Rotten Tomatoes, compared to a middling 48 percent for Rough Night. The success of films like Get Out, Wonder Woman and Baby Driver have shown that audiences care what the critics think. If a movie is good, they’ll go see it. If it’s bad? Forget it. We should also note that Rough Night was Johansson’s first real attempt at comedy. Coupled with the fact that audiences may have still had a bitter taste in their mouths from Johansson’s massively disappointing Ghost in The Shell, and it’s possible that Scarjo fatigue was a factor.
But perhaps the biggest reason Girls Night succeeded while its R-rated counterparts failed was because of the way it represented black women on screen. Can you remember the last time an R-rated mainstream comedy was led by four empowered African-American women? Neither can we. This was an untapped market waiting to explode, and Girls Trip lit the fuse. It also had that one X-factor that every R-rated comedy needs to become a cultural phenomenon: a breakout star.
The Hangover had Zach Galifianakis; Bridesmaids had Melissa McCarthy and Girls Trip has Tiffany Haddish. The once unknwon comedian exploded onto the scene thanks to a delightful interview with Jimmy Kimmel that went viral, and a performance in the film that very closely aligns with her real life persona. Haddish is a star, and Hollywood has taken notice. This week she signed on to star in a Kevin Hart comedy, and frankly, the sky is the limit. By the time the inevitable Girls Trip 2 hits theaters, expect Haddish to be one of the biggest stars in the country.